Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pakistan and 9/11

Pakistan’s intelligence agency is called the ISI. It became a virtual state within a state when the US C.I.A. gave it billions to fund the mujaheddin’s fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Estimates of the cost of that war run between $6 and 40 billion, and it was covered by the Afghan opium trade, the Saudis, and the USA. Opium production there ballooned from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1990.

The ISI remained in the drug trade after the war and worked out an arrangement with Osama bin Laden in which Al Qaeda got 15% of the profits. The Afghan Taliban was a creation of the ISI and worked with Bin Laden.

The career of a bright and accomplished young man, Ahmed Omar Sayed (Saeed Sheikh), illustrates the ISI-Qaeda connection. The son of a Pakistani clothing manufacturer, he grew up in London, received the best possible education, and developed skills in the martial arts, as a stock analyst/broker, and as a chess player. After doing charity work in Bosnia, he returned to England an Islamic radical. Pervez Musharraf has written that Sayed was recruited by MI 6 while at the London School of Economics and later became a rogue double agent. Some claim MI6 tried again to recruit him while in an Indian prison in 1999.

In 1993, he was in Pakistan working to liberate Kashmir, and soon became so involved in Al Qaeda that he was known as “Osama bin Laden’s son.” Later, there was speculation he could succeed Bin Laden. In 1994 he was incarcerated by the Indians after a trial at which he was represented by an ISI lawyer. He became the leader of his Muslim prison community. He also developed ties with India’s criminal underground which the ISI subsequently used to its advantage.

He was released in December, 1999 in return for a hijacked airliner that was taken to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He went to Kandahar to confer with Taliban leader Mullah Oman and with Al Qaeda leaders. An ISI colonel then escorted him to Pakistan. He emerged as a powerful man in Pakistan. Some think this was due to his ties to the ISI, and others claim his power flowed partly from C.I.A. ties. However, most ISI agents were Islamic fundamentalists who identified with the Taliban. A minority of agents were tied to the C.I.A. and were considered a problem. He has been able to visit Britain freely in 2000 and 2001 even though there were Britains aboard the hijacked airliner. The UK declined to prosecute him and some think he accepted a 1999 UK offer to work for them.

He has helped train terrorists in Afghanistan and has developed a secure web-based communications system for Al Qaeda. On July 2, 2002, an Indian newspaper reported“ Bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar[ Pakistan] military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself.”

Fayyaz Ahmed, another hijkacker received $50,000 in 1995. He cashed a check in Pasadena, which came from an Italian bank but can be traced back to $10,000,000 the Saudi royal family moved from Hamilton Bank of Miami, which has been used in a number of covert activities and was also used by Latin American rightist politicians to park their cash. The F.B.I. claims this was a different Fayyaz Ahmed, a mere student, and has refused to pursue the matter. Hamilton ws closed in 2002 by the FDIC .
Ahmed Omar Sayed, a British citizen and terrorist, was also active carrying out projects for ISI. Using the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, he wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta. The US has made no effort to apprehend him. The foreign press claimed to have information that Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, head of ISI, ordered the money transfer. Other sums were sent to Atta’s account at the Sun Trust Bank in Florida as well as to other banks. According to the Times of India, Indian intelligence provided the C.I.A. with information that proved that the general called Sayed and ordered him to send the money to Mohammed Atta. President Musharaf eventually announced that the general decided to retire on his own volition. General Ahmad was in Washington meeting with Bushofficials and Porter Goss and Senator Bob Grahm at the time of the 9/11 attack. Bin Laden’s brother was meeting with former President George H.W. Bush at the Ritz Carlton in Washington at the same time.

Ahmed Omar Sayed arrived in Washington on September 10 and attended meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. He also met with Marc Grossman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. On September 12, the general discussed an alliance with the US in a war on terrorism. On October 7, 2001, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf fired . Gen. Ahmed for allegedly supplying the cash that was wired to Atta. Most of the western press simply reported that he was fired for being too close to the Taliban. In fact, his firing occurred immediately after the Indian press revealed that he sent money to Atta through Omar Saeed Sheikh. The general has disappeared from view, but other ISI officers known to have been close to the Taliban remain in their posts.

It is puzzling that Pakistan would have sent $100,000 to Atta in such an open manner, and that the terrorists would then return surplus funds to an UAE account clearly linked to Pakistan. This is a question that will never be answered.

Prior to 9/11, a large portion of the Taliban army was made up of Pakistani soldiers. By the time of the US attack, most of these Pakistans had been withdrawn and the Pakistani government was official ly a US ally.

CNN verified that Sayeed sent the money, and the New York Times suggested he sent about $325,000. The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair explored his ties to the ISI. Otherwise, there has been much confusion in the US press about who wired the money to Atta. The F.B.I. has raised many possibilities as to who wired money to Atta and has even suggested that Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad was not an alias at all. Perhaps the raising of these other possible funders of terrorism are part of an effort to obscure Pakistan’s ties to Al Qaeda. The 911 commission reported that it had not been able to establish who funded the hijackers.

Senator Bob Graham, who had been chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said “foreign governments” funded Al Qaeda. Later, on May 16, 2002, Condoleeza Rice was asked by the press if the ISI chief was involved. The reference to the ISI chief disappeared from the official and CNN transcript of the encounter with the press.
Saeed continued to openly in his Lahore, Pakistan home. In August, 2001, the British finally got around to seeking the extradiction of Saeed for his possible role in the hijacking of the Indian plane, but they received little assistance in the matter. Saeed subsequently masterminded the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. The Pakistani government forced Saeed to surrender by threatening his entire family. He surrendered to his ISI handler, Ijaz Shah , and he was secretly held by that agency for several weeks. Musharraf, who visited Washington during this period, claimed he did not know where Saeed was. Saeed then surrendered to Pakistani police and confessed to the murder of Pearl and his ties with Indian criminals. He appeared cocky and certain he would not be extradited or serve more than several years.

Pakistan refused to turn him over to the US, and Pakistani prosecutors asked for a death sentence. Saeed withdrew his confession, and many waited to hear what he would say about ISI in court. He was convicted of masterminding Pearl’s death and given the death sentence. Perhaps still worried about his family’s future, he said little about his ties to the Pakistani government.

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